Ever since I was a teenager, I can remember going downtown to Five Points before going to work at Turner Field. As soon as I would exit the front of the station from Peachtree Street, I would be greeted by three or four tables line along Peachtree Street with street vendors trying to sell you everything from: candy, gum, honey buns, fruit, sodas, juices, Atlanta t-shirts, caps and more. Don’t let it be raining outside, they’ll be out there trying to hustle dozens of umbrellas and rain jackets in their arms as well.
I moved to Atlanta during the summer of 1996 from Asheville, NC, originally from San Francisco, I was immediately attracted to Atlanta’s downtown landscape. It wasn’t as busy and massive as San Francisco’s, but it resembled Asheville’s though it was 100x bigger, but I loved that downtown Atlanta reminded me of a larger Asheville. At the age of 17 and attending Clarkston High School of DeKalb County Schools, I would often find myself downtown at least two or three times a week after school hanging out.
I met and quickly got acquainted with a lot of people from all over the city, people hanging out downtown. One particular person that I met was a street vendor who I grew up only knowing as, Donnie, an older man that always has a vendor stand on the sidewalk of Alabama Street. Before catching the 97 Georgia Ave bus down to Turner Field, I would always stop by Donnie’s stand to get a Granny Smith Apple, Honey Bun, and an orange juice. Since the days of the opening season at Turner Field during 1997 to my final days of employment in 2001, working at the old Macy’s location on Peachtree, residing downtown at StudioPlex, my college years studying at the Auburn Ave Research Library, and as always… my days and nights hanging out downtown.
March of 2003 the city of Atlanta’s traditional street vending was put to a stop by adopting a company to build and manage vending booth’s. What was regularly a cost of only $250 a year to operate a vending space, turned into a monthly cost of $500-$1,600; approximately up to as much as $20,000 a year.
This monopoly has cost many vendors to go unemployed and dire need of basic assistance, also have left to add to downtown
Atlanta’s, south of Marietta Street’s community of underemployed and/or unemployed residents looking to make a quick dollar by any means necessary. From Alabama Street to Broad Street, Forsyth Street and even along Peachtree, there is a culture of people struggling to survive. Just the other day as went to Broad Street to begin capturing images of this upsetting ghetto lifestyle, I unknowingly took a picture of an individual going in the corner of a building and smoke on a crack pipe as the others stood around looking out for him.
Barbra Asher Square is the central location for much of the area’s struggle: homelessness, substance/alcohol abusers, drug dealers, prostitution, all in the middle of a popular plaza area that’s only feet away from government offices.
Why hasn’t the city done anything to assist old vendors to help make their livelihood better after adopting a failed vending strategy that has virtually failed to exist to this very day? Why hasn’t the city done anything to improve the lifestyles and the appearance of South of Marietta Street?
My story begins on Monday, October 24, 2016.